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Poster: Skobud Date: Jul 25, 2011 9:41am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: The Magic Trip

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So I forked out $10.99 last night to see The Magic Trip on pay-per-view prior to it being released in theaters in San Francisco and New York on Aug 5th. If you aare not familiar with it, it is the documentary about The Merry Pranksters and their original cross country trip from California to the Big Apple to see the World’s Fair in 1964. My take on this movie is that it was very interesting and also very slow at times. The 16mm film that comprises most of the entire movie is obviously priceless, and there is a ton of information. There was definitely a very honest and open angle to what was actually going on during the trip and the Acid Tests that followed, and it was not very pretty at times.

The film mostly focuses on Kesey and his interaction with everyone else, including the likes of Cassidy, all the pranksters, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and of course the GD. Again, the unreleased footage and the fact that many of the surviving Pranksters narrated it made the movie a treasure trove of information. Kesey had basically decided after writing Sometimes a Great Notion that print was not for him, and that filming was the future. He decided to start filming everything they did, everywhere they went. There was also a brief part of the movie that discussed Kesey as a closeted homosexual, and his relationship with Allen Ginsberg. There was also an extensive part of the movie that discusses Kesey’s participation in the original acid tests for the government and you can hear his actual tapes. Very far out. Timothy Leary and his famous snubbing of the Pranksters was literally shown and discussed. The section of the movie that dealt with the band was relatively brief, and they spent more time talking about the acid test graduation than anything else. A few brief primo shots of Primal GD, them playing at the Acid Tests and on top of the bus. Very Cool.


Much of the tone of the movie was pretty raw, in that they talked about how basically all of the Pranksters were married to someone on the bus, but that was not who they were involved with. They also made it very clear just how crowded and insane, literally, the trip was with Cassidy at the wheel. Those recording of him driving were some of the weirdest shit you ever heard, and it went on non stop for the entire trip. People were left behind in various places and the whole “never trust a Prankster” thing took on a whole new meaning. They were fucking ruthless and they took tons of drugs. Speed, huge doses of acid, and basically anything else they could get their hands on. It looked fun but also really fucked up much of the time. They talked about how literally some of them did not ever come back mentally after the gigantic amounts of acid they took. The drugs were not the focus of the movie, but they were definately part of it. The quantities were out of control - unreal amounts of acid at once, and speed almost every day.

So my overall opinion – See this freakin movie…Just don’t expect it to be all roses. They have an honest and open take on much of it and it ain’t so easy to watch at times. The pictures they paint are sometimes not what you would imagine. Such as them characterizing Kerouac as a washed up drunk by 1964, even though all of them had read and adored On the Road. So much of this I had no idea about, and I found myself uncomfortable watching the footage that went against what I had in my head about what went on back then. So, just like life, this Magic Trip was not nearly as cool as I had made it out to be in my head. That bus was a rolling speed fueled asylum with Kesey calling the shots. The Pranksters were a ruthless bunch and seemed to not have the deep connection to each other that one might think. They just did whatever felt good and the world be damned. This old school footage is not to be missed for any fan of this period.



This post was modified by Skobud on 2011-07-25 16:41:03

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Jul 25, 2011 8:15pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Magic Trip

Excellent review.

A few thoughts: While Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is obviously a lot about Tom Wolfe's voice and perspective, it didn't exactly give an idea of a bunch of loving, open, welcoming folks. Mostly Kesey came across as a power tripper.

Ever really listened to the 1/8/66 acid test tape? Imagine being someone who just came to see what it was like and wasn't, say, used to joking around with the Pranksters in their particular way, and then you hear this paranoia-inducing rap with "you fools! You're trapped!" Sorry, but that's not ... nice. Oh, I'm sure there are perspectives from which it was fun -- we don't see everything going on there -- but there's also a seriously mean edge to it.

I’d certainly argue that the Pranksters’ impact was ultimately positive. But the creative effect they had on the early SF scene passed out of their hands extremely quickly; their long-term and broader cultural impact has come entirely through other creative artists: specifically, Tom Wolfe and the Grateful Dead. Wolfe recorded what they did, filtered through his own lens, in a way that spread and preserved and magnified its impact, and of course the Dead put elements that were present within the acid tests into a form that grew tremendously and has lasted.

Anyway, without having seen the movie yet (can’t access it here), my take on the Pranksters is that what they did can be seen as a kind of performance art (“life as art”) that had a huge impact on others ... certainly the waves they generated have traveled far and been channeled in many ways ... but like other people or groups that have lived intensely enough to have an impact on history, there’s a power-hungry aspect to them (“ruthless,” as you said) that I bet wasn't too pretty close up.

Though of course, everyone's complicated, and the concept of "warts and all" has to also include the "all." Not all roses, not all warts. Well, I'm really curious to see this movie!



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Poster: Skobud Date: Jul 26, 2011 4:57am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Magic Trip

Excellent take Althea and I agree with you...Kesey was no sweetheart - It was more like "come with me and see if you can handle it"... The movie was very specific about how Kesey wanted to always be calling the shots, and especially with the women. He wanted who he wanted. They were nuts and fun loving and easy to love, but at the same time you could never trust a Prankster. The one interview with Kesey about that statement, "Never Trust a Prankster" he says in no uncertain terms that you could never trust him because he will always end up lying to you(because he's a prankster). Thats kinda when i was like - This guy acts like an asshole, not exactly an overly nice guy..I am gonna give that rap you mentioned a listen. I remeber thinking the same thing when I listened to all of the acid test reels..The truth is, I never make it throught those raps all the way - ever.

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Poster: turnphilup Date: Jul 25, 2011 12:33pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Magic Trip

Nice review to a movie covering a seminal event in psychedelic history. I personally have never looked at the bus trip with rose tinted glasses on. Taking our own bus trips ('83 Westphalia) to see shows back in the days created enough friction between us guys(forgot my ticket,forgot my weed, forgot money, forgot this, forgot that, forgot my brain!), I can barely fathom what they endured traveling through rural America whacked out of their heads in 1965! Kesey wanted to wake America up and to the vivid realities he saw on LSD. There were causalities on the way and not everybody got the message. I thought of the Dead as sorta of torchbearers to the masses starting with the acid test. Not everyone "passes" so to speak, but 30 years worth of shows was enough to show a lot of people the light, including myself. Peace

There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution." Aldous Huxley, Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961